Mailvox: skeptic to the bone

Zink’s world is rocked:


Vox doesn’t believe in evolution? What the heck? Why not?

I’m too skeptical to believe in evolution, although I admit that it’s theoretically possible with a creator God. A God powerful enough to create Creation could have a) sped up or slowed down time, b) create a new earth that was old, or c) compressed millions of years into a few seconds. As sheer chance creating something out of nothing, forget it.

I regard evolution as a theory that is only marginally more believable than Keynesian theory. Once scientists actually replicate evolution by turning fast-breeding fruit flies into something else, I’ll take it seriously. Otherwise, it’s soft science, lacking both mathematical proof and replicable experimentation. I fully expect that future scientists will laugh at our modern beliefs in macroeconomic theory and evolutionary theory in much the same way that we laugh at past societies that believed in pure mercantilism and the idea that the earth was made out of the bones of a dead god. And I suspect that the universe is a much weirder place than we imagine.

If you have to hide your lack of successful experimentation behind the “it’s not practical” argument, then you’re doing little more than putting your faith in what appear to be probabilities. And anyone who remembers Long Term Capital Management knows dependable they are.

Parenting by proxy


“I think there is a place for Christian bands, and schools aren’t where they belong,” Ms. Chiarelott said. “Maybe most people don’t really see anything wrong with it, but there is a line and this is crossing it. I’m amazed they even considered it.”

Setting aside the lameness of the “anti-drug” nonsense and the amusing concept of a “rock” band playing in schools, I don’t know how much more clear the point can be made that the public schools do not want Christianity in any shape or form being permitted to enter. Why any Christian would want to voluntarily subject their children to this sort of virulent opposition from a very young age is utterly beyond me.

It strikes me as ironic that those who would never consider subjecting their children to a physical beating in order to toughen them up for the real world think that it is a good idea to send them to those who despise Christians during what are manifestly their developmental years.

The point of parenting is to train your children to meet the real world when they are ready for it; leaving them to television and teachers is not parenting but parenting by proxy.

Stables and stashes


What strategy should you adopt? Well, if you wait to the end, the odds are only 1/100 that the last person is the optimal choice; ditto if you choose the first person. The modeler then asks: what strategy should you adopt for optimum results? A little bit of mathematics involving infinite series gives the answer. You can prove mathematically that the best strategy is to look at (approximately) the first 36.787944117144235 people (rounding it to, say, 37 people) and then you should choose the first person from that point on that is ‘better’ then the previous 37 people. This increases the odds of your finding the best match from 1% to about 37%- roughly a 37 times improvement. (In the pre-politically correct literature this model was called “The Sultan’s Dowry Problem,” or “The Secretary Problem”; now, alas, it is usually called simply an example of an “Optimal Stopping Problem.” )

Is this a good model for how we behave? Is this a strategy that one can realistically adopt? Certainly, 100 possibilities seems like a lot of choices to have if one is not the current day equivalent of a sultan — a movie star or an athlete. But the model is intriguing, if not totally realistic and applicable.

Models that spring from modification of the rules of the Sultan problem have always been one of my favorites in this area. This makes Chapter 3 my favorite chapter: it is chock full of goodies with lots of interesting variations of the original problem, and thus even more interesting models. Some may be far more applicable. For example, if you get to play the cad and can keep potential mates ‘stockpiled,’ then, by stockpiling seven potential mates, there’s a strategy that you can use to increase the odds of finding the best one to 96% or so!

Now, the notion of relying on mathematicians for romantic advice seems sketchy at best, but there seems to be an element of truth to what the author of MATHEMATICS AND SEX posits, especially when it comes to stockpiling. Women, being somewhat more ruthless than the average man when planning for the future, have a strong tendency to do this “stockpiling”; this is the sort of thing I’ve described before when I referred to the “posses” of quasi-friends that many women keep about them.

Whereas men like to create love stables, a sort of harem-by-telephone to keep them provided with a dependable variety of casual rides, women’s posses ensure that they’ll have several fall-back options in case Mr. Perfect doesn’t materialize by a certain point of time. And as the numbers suggest, this is the mathematically optimal strategy.

So, keep that in mind the next time she “just wants to be friends” but confuses you by calling you up all the time and stirring up your interest in her. The good news is that there is a small chance in the long term. The bad news is that you’re nothing but a stashed man, held in pocket for a rainy day.